It’s a funny old feeling this morning, knowing tomorrow morning I’m gonna be waking up in Africa, in a country called Botswana.
I’m going out working for a charity called Coaching For Hope and it’s five days work, mornings and afternoons, trying to train their local coaches how to teach football and play football.
There couldn’t really be a greater contrast to what I’ve had to do in the last couple of weeks. Non-stop emails, texts, telephone conversations, meetings with players, agents and others to negotiate contracts as footballers.
Some want crazy money, some unrealistic, some greedy and in contrast most of the locals I’ve worked with in Cape Town and Burkina Faso have no mobile, no TV, no laptop, no Playstation, no Xbox, very little money, very few clothes and quite often just enough food to live on.
It’s mad. They all turn up with big smiles on their faces, they play on stony, shingly, dirty, bumpy pitches, rock hard with no grass, sometimes with no boots and yet they’re all so happy. It’s mad.
My sister has got four lovely boys. She’s given me a great big bag of old clothes, shoes, boots and trainers for the young people and it will be magic giving out things that we take for granted – and seeing their faces, with such big smiles will be in stark contrast to some of the people that I’ve had to be dealing with recently.
After the course I’ve got a few days and I’ve taken the option not to book anything and find the cheapest form of camping out in the bush. I hate spiders, I run from mice, I’m petrified of snakes, and this is probably one of the craziest things for me to ever do.
I’ve never been camping and I suppose I can just see it now – a dodgy old yellow tent, a zipper at the end, hopefully one of the blokes has made a fire outside and at about 3am you wake up and hear something walking along outside the tent; sniffing around, slithering about, wondering if it’s the tour guide geezer or a blinking animal. Just writing it scares the life out of me.
It’s all a far cry and a great way to escape, to see a different culture and enjoy working with unspoiled, kind, caring lovely people who share a love of one special thing – whether you’re rich and famous or ‘Joe Public’ and skint - and that love, that leveler that we all share, is the game of football.
Lastly, I was going into the garage to pay for my petrol the other day and some bloke turned around and said:
“Oi! Are you Martin Allen?”
I looked and in that split second you never know what he might say or do. I quickly smiled and said “Yes mate.”
He said “I love your Sunday Sermon, why didn’t you write one last Sunday?”
I told him I had a weekend break at home doing nothing, just totally chilling for some peace and relaxation.
He said “I’ve never liked you”, having held his arm out to shake my hand, “but I love the way you write your Sunday Sermon.”
He asked me if I wrote it myself, which I suppose is a compliment. It’s the first time, as I had no idea who reads this, but writing is something I just enjoy – you should try it sometime.
I will do my best to get it sorted for next Sunday as long as my laptop works inside that little yellow tent!